Russia War in Ukraine Set to Dominate United Nations Meeting

From a Wall Street Journal story by William Mauldin headlined “Russia War in Ukraine Set to Dominate United Nations Gathering”:

Russia’s war in Ukraine is set to dominate the annual gathering of government leaders at the United Nations in New York, although developing countries are insisting that health issues, the global food supply and climate change don’t fall through the cracks, officials said.

U.N. events over the coming week will more closely resemble traditional gatherings after the coronavirus pandemic prompted limited or mostly online attendance the past two years. President Biden is scheduled to speak Wednesday after attending Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral—an event which has affected the timing of U.N. meetings and caused some attendees to drop out.

Many countries are expected to raise pressure on Russia during the week’s proceedings after the country launched Europe’s largest land war since World War II, in February. France will convene a U.N. Security Council meeting on Ukraine. A Tuesday gathering will look at food shortages, blamed in part on the war. Several leaders are expected to criticize Russia in high-profile, televised speeches to the General Assembly.

Neither the Security Council, a 15-member group that can pass binding resolutions, nor other U.N. bodies are likely to make any substantive moves against Russia. Russia retains its permanent seat and veto power in the Security Council, the U.N.’s most powerful body, as does Moscow’s partner, China.

Several dozen countries, some of which rely on Russia for food and energy supplies, haven’t joined the West’s sanctions campaign and either abstained or voted “no” when the General Assembly passed resolutions this year to condemn the assault on Ukraine and remove Moscow from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

“Many other countries have expressed the concern that as we focus on Ukraine, we are not paying attention to what is happening in other crises around the world,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told reporters on Friday. “We’re not going to just focus on Ukraine, but we’re not going to ignore Ukraine.”

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said diplomats want to make progress on Covid-19, monkeypox, food security and climate change. Tackling those issues has been hampered by the Ukraine war and other conflicts and by friction between the major powers.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre declined to discuss the details of Mr. Biden’s speech, which is still being revised, but officials expect he will announce more food aid and criticize Russia for invading a neighboring country.

On Friday, Csaba Kőrösi, the Hungarian diplomat who serves as president of the General Assembly, rang the “peace bell” in advance of International Peace Day on Wednesday and said this year’s gathering will be “rooted in solidarity.”

“The consequences of the war in Ukraine are global, felt far beyond the region,” said Mr. Kőrösi. He didn’t mention Russia in his remarks.

Ukraine won a minor diplomatic victory Friday when the General Assembly voted to exempt President Volodymyr Zelensky from a requirement to speak in person and allow him to address the gathering remotely. Joining Russia in voting against the resolution were Belarus, Cuba, Eritrea, Nicaragua, North Korea and Syria. Another 17 countries abstained.

Mr. Zelensky in April urged the Security Council to eject Russia or abolish the body altogether. Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said Friday that the U.S. plans to discuss with other member states “how we can just move the needle on this so that we can make some progress on U.N. reform and Security Council reform.” One possibility is increasing the size of the Security Council, she said.

Most Western diplomats don’t see a near-term path for removing Russia from the council, whose composition is set by the U.N. Charter. Still, U.S. officials hope to pressure Moscow to end the war by arguing that the conflict is a flagrant violation of that charter, which calls for the settlement of disputes by peaceful means.

“The charter should be front and center,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday in Washington at an event with Jordan’s foreign minister. “The No. 1 violator of the charter right now is Russia.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to face some criticism from China and India this past week at a gathering of Asian countries in Uzbekistan. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Mr. Putin that “today’s era is not one for war,” while Mr. Putin, in public remarks when meeting Chinese leader Xi Jinping, promised to address China’s concerns about the Ukraine conflict.

“What you’re hearing from China, from India is reflective of concerns around the world about the effects of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, not just on the people of Ukraine, devastating as that’s been, but on countries and people across the entire planet,” Mr. Blinken said Friday.

Mr. Blinken is set to represent the U.S. Thursday at a Security Council meeting on Ukraine and related issues. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to address the General Assembly on Saturday. Mr. Lavrov is subject to U.S. sanctions over Ukraine, but an agreement that governs the U.S. hosting of the U.N. headquarters allows for access for world diplomats. U.S. officials said they don’t expect Mr. Lavrov to meet Mr. Blinken.

Iran President Ebrahim Raisi, who is also subject to U.S. sanctions, is scheduled to speak on Wednesday. U.S. officials said Washington and Tehran have grown farther apart on negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, and the State Department hasn’t announced any Iran-related meetings in New York.

Officials haven’t said whether Mr. Blinken will meet senior Chinese officials during the gathering of world leaders. The U.N. has become an arena in the U.S.-China rivalry for influence. In a blow to Beijing, the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a critical report this past month identifying human-rights violations and possible crimes against humanity in China’s treatment Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in its Xinjiang region.

William Mauldin is a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, writing about foreign policy and the State Department. Previously he covered international trade out of the Washington bureau, and before that was posted in Moscow for over five years.

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